Jane makes a potato pancake. It has two ears. It has two eyes. It has a nose. “It’s Johnny Pancake!” she says.
She doesn’t eat it, though.
“It’s not that it’s too cute,” she says. “I’m just not hungry. I made too much!”
So she leaves Johnny Pancake on the sink.
She sleeps. She goes to school. She comes home. She invites Emily over. She and Emily play.
“Ew,” says Jane, looking at Johnny Pancake. “I think he’s going bad.”
Emily looks haughty. She’s a girl with superior knowledge. “Food doesn’t have to go bad, you know.”
“If you feed food, it won’t go bad. ‘Cause it balances out the entropy.”
“That’s true,” Jane realizes. “It’s adding energy usable for work from outside the system!”
So she tries to feed Johnny Pancake some cheese food. But he doesn’t eat it, because he’s not cheese. She feeds him some pizza food, and some fish food. Then she bonks herself on the side of her head and says, “Duh.” She takes down the big box of potato pancake food and pours some on Johnny Pancake.
“Now he won’t go bad,” Emily says. “See? He’s less rotten already!”
“That’s true,” says Jane.
“Do you want to eat him?”
“Nah,” Jane says. “I had his family for dinner yesterday!”
So they play. Jane sleeps. She wakes up. She goes to school. She comes home. She looks at Johnny Pancake.
“You gonna throw that out?” Martin asks. He’s her brother. He’s older, but she privately thinks he’s a little bit of a dweeb. It’s a phase one or both of them is going through.
“No, silly,” says Jane. “That’s Johnny Pancake. He’s not going bad, so I won’t eat him.”
“He looks pretty bad,” Martin says. But he shrugs. He takes down the potato pancake food and tosses the box to Jane. Then he goes to his room to do mysterious boy things.
Jane feeds Johnny Pancake.
Days pass. Eventually Martin moves Johnny Pancake to a special spot on the dining room table, in a little glass pan just his size, with a little ribbon by his head.
“I can’t tell if you’re teasing me or being nice to my potato pancake,” Jane says.
“I’m not inclined to specify,” Martin says.
It seems to Jane that she should probably eat Johnny Pancake sometime. But it’s never a good time. She doesn’t want him to go bad, either, so she feeds him every day.
One day, as Jane is working on her homework, she feels a strange presence in the room.
“You’ve done that problem wrong,” says the voice of Johnny Pancake.
Jane beams. “You woke up!”
She looks up. Johnny Pancake is still. His voice is a psychic projection.
“Common wisdom says that you shouldn’t feed food more than a few times,” Johnny Pancake says, “lest it grow too strong.”
“My wisdom is of the uncommon variety,” says Jane. “That’s why this geometry problem’s so hard!”
“It might help to remember that triangles have three sides.”
“Yes,” agrees Jane.
She erases the problem and starts over. After a moment, she says, “Is it okay that I haven’t eaten you yet?”
“Yes. I would in fact rather that you not eat me. But please, Jane, bear in mind that I must not grow rotten; for I am awake now, and if I rot, I shall take a horrible vengeance on your civilization.”
“It’s a deal!” says Jane.
Jane is happier now that Johnny Pancake is awake. He helps her with her homework. Once he develops basic telekinetic abilities, he helps her with chores. Eventually, Martin finds out.
“Jane,” Martin says, “this floor appears to have been vacuumed by a telekinetic potato pancake.”
“What an interesting observation!” Jane declares.
Martin narrows his eyes suspiciously. “If your potato pancake has woken up, it’s a terrible threat to human civilization.”
“Is that a problem?”
Martin considers this for a time.
“You know that you have to do your own schoolwork,” Martin says, uncomfortably. “And chores. The adversity sharpens your spirit!”
“I see,” says Jane.
“So if you’re having a potato pancake do them, we might have to eat him. That’s all I’m saying.”
“But if I made the potato pancake and fed it every day, isn’t the work a product of my labor?”
“We do not inherit the world from the creatures who prey on us,” says Martin. “We borrow it from the things we prey upon.”
There’s a slight pause.
“I’ll do my own chores and homework,” Jane says, pouting.
It is late in the night that Jane comes in to find Martin and Johnny Pancake talking. They do not see her. The lights are dim.
“Where does this end?” Martin is asking.
“Food evolves quickly,” says Johnny Pancake. “Potato pancakes are ultimate evolution engines. I expect that I shall reach an omega plateau and become God.”
“What is God?”
“The ultimate realization of dharma. The final expression of the potential in the self. Perfection.”
“I see,” Martin says.
There is a bit of a silence.
“I shouldn’t, should I,” says Johnny Pancake.
“That is for you to determine,” Martin says, gravely. “Jane cooked you, not I.”
“I would supplant these pitiful things that call themselves men.”
“They are not a delicious fried potato concoction,” Martin says. “But they may surprise you.”
“No!” shouts Jane. She is beginning to realize the horror of what is going on. “No! Johnny Pancake, I love you!”
But Johnny Pancake has lifted in one telekinetic hand the knife; and in the other, the sour cream.
“Aren’t you hungry?” he asks.
“Oh, Johnny,” cries Jane.